Sunday, March 27, 2011

What have I been up to?

First, some more random, but interesting stuff I learned in repro class. (If science/animals gross you out, or you were completely grossed out by the bedbug thing in the last post, skip to the next paragraph) When artificially inseminating an elephant, (cause you never know when you may be put up to the challenge, you could just be walking along and then Whoah! There’s an elephant and I need to AI it. When that happens, you’ll be glad you read this) you should know that it’s gonna be quite hard to do…because yeah, it’s an elephant. It’s about a 1.5 meter journey to the cervix where you need to insert the semen, and there’s like this random 45° angle turn that you have to make in order to get to the cervix. And once you get there, there’s 3 tiny mm sized holes that you have to choose from, one is the correct one and the other two are dead ends. Still with me? Well, the initial opening that you’d enter through is on the underside of the elephant, so I’m still trying to figure out how they actually mate…no wonder they’re endangered. Was that difficult enough? Well, let’s rewind a bit, because before you AI the girl, you’ve gotta get the semen out of the boy. This is where, once again, it gets weird. In order to get the male to ejaculate, you’ve gotta stimulate the prostate gland. This is NOT how it’s done for most animals, so I’m sitting there trying to figure out, “Who in the WORLD figured this out???? Oh, the normal ways we use for getting an animal to ejaculate isn’t working on this elephant. Maybe I’ll try sticking my arm into the rectum (yes, this is how one accesses the prostate gland) and…well you get the idea. As interesting as I find conservation of endangered species, I’m getting the idea that finding new AI methods for animals such as the elephant or the rhinoceros is possibly not the field I want to get into as a vet or animal scientist, but I suppose we shall see what the future holds. (If that bit of info interested you, check out the documentary “An elephant’s guide to sex”)

But yeah, I’m thinking that this is going to be quite a hodgepodge/random collection if tidbits from my life…so if you’re interested, read on. Today, my church had a picnic and it was quite fun, not to mention that the weather was pretty near perfect. Not too cold, not too hot and the sun was warm but not scalding. Anyhow, the reason I put this in here (well, I guess my church here is pretty cool, and I suppose that is one thing that I’ve been up to) was to tell you about the bathroom adventure that me and two friends had. We got up and started walking to the bathroom, but none of us actually knew where the bathroom was. We saw this building off in the distance that we decided the bathroom was probably in, but as we got closer, it was looking more like a shack and we were hoping that this was not where the bathroom was located. When we got to the building we realized there was a small fire burning, and there were a group of people sitting by. They were like “Hi! This is our campsite!” It was a bit odd, but they were quite friendly, and pointed the bathroom out to us. It was of course in the direction that we had come from so we went completely out of the way. However, we took a nice scenic tour around the park to get to the bathroom, so I guess it wasn’t so bad. When we got to the bathroom, there was a line, and no exaggeration, this is probably the weirdest public toilet I’ve ever seen. Firstly, there was no handle on the door. It slid open like an elevator, and it actually looked like the door to an elevator. You had to push a button to open it. (sidenote: interesting fact, the doors on the trains don’t open automatically, you either have to push a button or slide it open manually with a handle) Anyhow, when you went in, despite the fact that it was kinda gross, being a public toilet in a park and all, it almost seemed like a bathroom from the future. I almost wish I’d taken pictures. Anyhow, I felt a bit ridiculous as the various signs on the wall pretty much walked me through the process. First, you had to push a button to have the toilet paper dispensed to you. In hindsight, this was quite gross. If you think about it, if someone needed a second helping of TP, they had to push that button again after wiping….GROSS! Anyhow, the next step was to try and figure out how to flush the toilet. Sign: Toilet will flush automatically upon washing hands or opening door. (Could hand-washing not have been compulsory at this point?) So I go to the 3 part sink. Section 1: Automatic soap dispenser. (shift hands to the right to) Section 2: Automatic water. (shift hands again to the right to) Section 3: automatic hand dryer. Finally, you push the exit button to open the door. When the 3 of us finally got back to the group, 2 of my other friends were like, what took you guys so long, so I proceeded to tell them this story. They then told me that if I wanted a simple public toilet that I could go visit China because there are no doors on the stalls. One friend said she used an umbrella as a door.

I mentioned earlier how I have a tendency to go the wrong way to find stuff. If I haven’t told you my dentist in Chinatown story, ask me about it, but it pretty much happened all over again here when I was trying to get to the FEDEX store. I knew it was near the airport, so I went to the Metro place and asked which bus to take. He told me the bus number and pointed in the direction of the nearest stop which was V2. Unfortunately, when people point to stuff from inside a building, once I walk outside, I get confused. V2 happened to be only a few meters away down the street, but of course, I went the wrong way. I found V1, but V2 and V1 aren’t that close to each other. I ended up walking around a major chunk of the city, and ended up going back to the main campus of the university because I knew there was a stop near there (but it was completely out of the way). I finally got the bus, and it was about a half hour trip. I got off at the stop before the airport b/c that’s where FEDEX is. However, when trying to go back, I found out as the bus passed me twice, that it doesn’t stop there unless someone on the bus needs to get off there, because the stop is off the main road and the bus driver can’t see if anyone’s there (and no, they don’t bother checking). Another bus came, and he told me that I probably wouldn’t get picked up there anytime soon, so he took me to the airport stop. Because of this long excursion, I ended up missing the bus back to my campus, as well as the train that gets me to the town close to campus in time for the afternoon shuttle from town to the campus. So, I got on the train anyway and just decided that I could hang out in town for like 3 hours. That wouldn’t have been happy. Fortunately, one of my friends has a car and she got out of class early so she came and got me. But yeah, I’m still up to my normal travel mishaps.

Lastly, I guess I’ll tell you about my random uni stuff. I started a bible study, and it’s been going pretty well by God’s grace. I also joined the netball club. I’ve never played or heard of netball before I came here, but I’ve been told that I’m doing pretty well at it. I’ve been playing wing defense which I think is an alright position for me. For those who don’t know what netball is, which for all I know, plenty of people could and I could have just been living in the dark (but I think it’s primarily an Australian sport), it’s like a combination of handball and basketball I guess. The hoop doesn’t have a backboard, and only two people are allowed to shoot, and you have to be right next to the basket. Also, whoever’s trying to block the shooter has to stand 3 feet away. There’s also no dribbling allowed, and once you catch the ball, you can’t move (well you can pivot, but you can’t run with it). It’s pretty fun, and it’s giving me exercise which is good, cause this campus isn’t nearly as big as Purdue so I can’t use walking to class as my daily physical activity. I guess that’s it for now.

Oh, one last thing: I tried Vegemite…and hated it.

Until next time, try something new.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

They Do What, How?!?!?

me with a basket on my head
boat with clay pit, it's kinda hard to see
water/baby carrier
shield map
boomerang and shield

bird net
giant boomerang (used for ceremonies not hunting...could you imagine throwing that thing?)
spear throwers
demonstration of spear throwing

So, you can ignore the pictures above for now, for the sole purpose of the fact that I can’t figure out how to make them go beneath the text, but I will talk about them later. In fact, if we’re friends on fb, you may have already seen them, but they will be a nice aid to go with when I talk about the things I learned about the Aboriginal culture when I took a tour at the museum. The title of this post would I suppose more accurately be named “Some random stuff I’ve learned so far” but that’s not nearly as exciting as the current title, and I promise you it is completely relevant. Before I talk about what I learned about the Aboriginals, I thought I talk about something completely irrelevant to Australia that I learned in Animal Reproduction: Bed Bug Mating

This is probably one of the weirdest things that I’ve ever heard, and I warn you now this may be a bit gross to some, or a bit in appropriate, but I’ll try to make it as un-awkward as possible even though it’s a totally awkward and weird topic. But yes, last week we went on a field trip for Animal Reproduction (where I got to artificially inseminate a sheep btw!!!) and as part of the trip, we watched a video on how different animals mate. An interesting fact that I learned is that with some species of bird, and I suppose some other animals may be able to do this as well, if an unwanted partner mates with them, they can push the unwanted sperm from their body. An odder fact is that dragonflies have a spiked penis that they use to scrape sperm from the reproductive tract of the female. However, the female repro tract is formed in a way that there are ridges behind where the sperm can hide. As strange as the previous two have seemed, there was no comparison to the bed bug. It was by far the weirdest. The male bed bug can penetrate the female in any part of her body and it injects sperm into her bloodstream. People always say that the sperm has a long journey from the entryway of the vagina to the oviducts in humans; however that doesn’t even compare to the journey the sperm of the bedbug take. The bedbug’s sperm must travel through the females bloodstream until it finds its way to the egg. Weird enough for you yet? Nope, it gets sooo much weirder. Not only can the male penetrate the female in any part of the body, males can penetrate other males, including while one male is mating with another female. If a male penetrates another male, his sperm journey is to travel through the blood stream until it reaches the testes, where it can then be transferred to another female. So not even the male bedbug can ensure its paternity to the female it mates with. So that’s something I’ve learned that was quite interesting since I’ve been here.

Now on to the Aboriginals. There are estimated to have been around 600 different aboriginal nations, all speaking different languages. The ones that inhabited the area of Adelaide were called the Kaurna (pronounced almost like Ghana, at least with an Australian accent) people. They’re society was led by a group of elders and they delegated decisions, discussions, and tasks as male business and female business. It was very much a hunter-gatherer society, and because they couldn’t be bogged down with having to carry a bunch of tools, many of their tools were dual purpose. They usually followed the wildlife which was part of their source of food; however, they didn’t go too far out distance-wise so they generally stayed in the same territory. But back to the dual purpose tools. The first picture (from the bottom going up) is of the spear thrower which doubled as a scraper. It was pretty cool in how advanced it was for the time period in which it was used. The design allowed for a further distance thrown as well as enhanced accuracy. Then there was the boomerang. Contrary to common belief, not all boomerangs returned to you. Some were actually quite club shaped in their design. Also contrary to common belief, they didn’t throw the boomerangs into the air and knock the birds from the air. That would be extremely difficult, as well as quite inefficient because on the occasion that you happened to hit a bird, you’ve only got one after heaps of effort. What they did in fact do with the boomerangs was throw them at the birds to get them to fly into the direction of the bird net that they had set up in a nearby tree. The boomerang could also be used to start fires by rubbing it against a groove that was in their shields. This was possible due to the fact that one was made of soft wood and the other of hard. Paintings on their shields also could be used as maps based on the colorings and patterns. I’m pretty sure there was a container that they used to carry water in that doubled as a baby carrier as well. Unfortunately I took the tour the first week I was here, but failed to write about it until now, so that’s pretty much all the detail that I can remember. I’m pretty sure that’s it, which means this has made to be one of my shorter posts.

Until next time, never stop learning! After all, “knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” (Proverbs 2:10b)


Thursday, March 3, 2011

One down, 11 to go

So that countdown is referring to the number of weeks of classes here. I’ve successfully survived my first week of classes, and it’s a bit different. Firstly, there’s only 12 weeks! I was talking to my good friend Bekah today before Skype rudely dropped the call and she was asking me about how the classes were different. So I suppose I will write about that in this blog, since I never got to answer here.

Firstly, I will note that when I got here, during international student orientation, they constantly stressed how punctuality is a major Australian value, and I’m like ok, we share a value. Although I sometimes operate on CP time, I really do like to be on time to stuff, and I make an honest effort to be for the most part. It’s something I can say I have actually seen myself grow in since beginning college. So since my schedule said 9 am on Tuesday for the start of my biochemistry class, I show up at like 5 before 9, and there’s barely anyone there. People slowly trickle in, including the professor, and finally at like 9:15 class started. I’m thinking to myself, “this is interesting. Punctuality, huh?” Maybe starting on time is how they roll at the main campus, however at the Ag one, not so much. Second difference: (also exclusive to the ag campus) the lectures are in 3 hour time blocks, so I have one class each day. In the morning is the 3 hour lecture, and in the afternoon is 3 hours of lab, tutorial, or a combination or alteration of the two. I say alteration because in biochemistry, we have a lab one week, and the next week a tutorial (which is like a discussion based recitation). 3 hour lecture? That is a bit long, but it’s not so bad. The biochemists have worked it out so that we get a 10 min break after the first hour, and lunch after the second hour before the 3rd, because anyone could guess that 3 hours straight of biochem would be enough to cause someone’s brain to liquefy and just simply run out of their ears. However, these breaks seem to be at the prof’s disgression, but they do all seem to be in agreement that a break is necessary. My second day was in animal breeding and genetics, and the prof went for like an hour and a half, and was just randomly like, ok, let’s take a 25 minute break. Today, was animal reproduction, which so far, I find the most interesting. This is going to be a MAJOR nerd moment, but I was so engaged that I could’ve gone without the break. Or at least when she gave us one, I wasn’t necessarily ready for one yet, but in all honesty, I probably would have gotten restless if I had to sit for 3 straight hours.

The next difference is that the learning seems to be a lot more hands on. Today in repro I dissected the reproduction tract of a boar and goat. And then we got to design the stages of sperm development within the seminiferous tubule out of play-doh. Mine was done in pen though, cause it took until the end of the class period of the teacher explaining it to me until I understood it. However, I get it now (hopefully). Yesterday, my first day of breeding and genetics involved a trip to the cattle yards. And there are other similar things planned throughout the semester including trips to zoos, research centers, and my wildlife management course has a four day field trip.

Am I at number 4? Well, that’s what we’re going with. The professors generally go by their first names. And number 5, cause that’s a good number I think. When I was preparing to come here, everyone was like, it’s really hard to do well because your grade is only based off of the final exam and a paper. Fortunately, I’ve learned not to really listen to other people when their advice is even in the least bit discouraging. Even if something is difficult, I’m not going to go into with an attitude of defeat. I’m more than a conqueror!! (HS just gave that to me just now :]) I’m going to go into it expecting and working toward success! Anyhow, I got here, and maybe some classes are like that, but mine aren’t. The heaviest weighted exam is in my repro class and that’s 45%. The other two non-online classes have 2 exams and all of them have lab grades and other assessments. The learning style is still a bit more independent than at Purdue, and I’ll have to be sure to interact with each subject more than just that one day each week, but that should be a good growth experience, and hopefully it will help to improve my study skills. Well, that’s all I can think of for now.

Until next time…Be MORE than a CONQUEROR!! (Rom 8:37)